NAfter almost three years of the corona pandemic, there is growing hope in the federal states that the last protective measures can be taken in 2023 and that a new normal in dealing with the virus will set in. The obligation to isolate infected people has fallen in some cases, mask rules on buses and trains are crumbling. In the traffic light coalition, the FDP in particular is in favor of a quick end to further conditions – but not all prime ministers go along with it.
“If the pandemic becomes an epidemic, then it makes sense to give the responsibility for infection control back to the people,” says Bremen’s Prime Minister Andreas Bovenschulte (SPD). NRW Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst takes a similar view, also with a view to Christmas and New Year’s Eve: “People now have a high level of routine in dealing with the corona virus,” says the CDU politician. “That’s why they don’t need any behavioral recommendations from politicians, especially for the private sector.”
But what rules does the Federal Infection Protection Act still specify? As of today, the following applies: While the state governments can decide for themselves whether masks are compulsory in buses and trains in local transport, FFP2 masks are compulsory for long-distance trains and long-distance buses nationwide until April 7, 2023. The mask requirement also applies in medical practices, clinics and nursing homes. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) is sticking to this for the time being.
Söder: “Either completely or not at all”
The countries, in turn, handle the corona measures, which are their sovereignty, completely differently. A patchwork of regulations has therefore emerged. The mask requirement in local transport in Bavaria and Saxony-Anhalt has already been abolished, and in Schleswig-Holstein it will expire at the end of the year. Bavaria, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Schleswig-Holstein and Rhineland-Palatinate have said goodbye to the obligation to isolate if the test is positive and are instead relying on a stricter mask requirement for infected people.
All this despite the fact that tens of thousands of corona infections and several hundred deaths are added every week. Are the other countries following suit?
“I do think that the mask requirement will be abandoned next year,” says Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD). “We have to get back to normality a bit.” However, people are often standing close together in local transport, which is why the obligation to wear masks offers important protection, at least in winter. Berlin’s Corona state regulation is valid until January 17th, Giffey wants to mark the further course at the beginning of the year, striving for the most uniform possible approach by the states and, above all, a common line with neighboring Brandenburg.
Bremen has set March 1 as the target for the end of the public transport mask requirement. With Lower Saxony, it also has a large area as a neighbor. “Because of the importance of cross-border traffic, it makes sense to have a uniform regulation,” says Mayor Bovenschulte. “If Lower Saxony then wants to phase out the mask requirement a few weeks later, we would certainly go along with it in the interests of uniformity.”